The importance of anime in Japanese culture

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When you think of Japanese culture, there are so many things that might come to mind. You might think of their vibrant theater community, which brought the art of kabuki and many original plays to the world. Or their performing arts, which produced popular music acts that found success, fame and fortune thanks to their fans around the world. Or you might think of their absolutely heavenly fine dining, including the art of sushi. If you’re like me, however, the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Japan as anime and manga!

Recently I was asked the question about the importance of anime and manga in Japanese culture and I decided to research and explore this topic in this feature to answer the question to the best of my ability. .

Anime: a brief history

It is said that it was not until October 1958 that Japan truly entered the global animation market with the screening of the film. Panda and the magic snake. From there, it was just a jump, a jump, and a leap forward a few years until the 1960s when we started to see what shape the anime would take in the future; most notably the great physical characteristics (including the big eyes for which the anime is now known). During this decade we have Astro boy in 1963, which will inspire and influence countless future designers.

In the 1970s, the anime would enter a more experimental phase with new studios such as Sunrise and Madhouse formed by former Mushi Production staff. It was also the first time we saw classic characters and stories told with Joe of tomorrow and the first two seasons of Lupine III aired that decade and in 1978 over 50 anime programs aired during that time of year.

In the 40 years since the current decade, anime has grown, changed, and evolved into the product we know today. We’ve seen the medium go through various stages and trends, including the most recent isekai mode, and now we’re starting to see a rebirth of series that aren’t adaptations of existing works but instead attempt to create their own original stories.

Does everyone in Japan love anime?

This is probably the easiest question to answer in all of this feature because the answer is no. It’s always funny to see people who have this rose-tinted take on Japan as an anime heaven where they can go and talk about any obscure series they want with any random passerby and have the impression that they will finally be understood. You can’t and you won’t.

That’s not to say that there aren’t anime fans in Japan. There are obviously a lot of them, otherwise the industry would have died decades ago. The thing to remember, however, is that anime and manga are a hobby like any other in any part of the world. Some people will be absolutely hardcore anime otaku just like you, but there are also plenty of others who are just casual fans or even infrequent fans who only watch the big mainstream series or tent pole. . To generalize and say that everyone in Japan is an anime freak is mean, insulting, and just plain wrong.

Anime as an industry

With the massive commercialization of the product, the anime has grown into a worldwide sensation and a multi-billion dollar industry. While Western anime was present in the ’80s via VHS tape exchanges (kids, ask your parents), it wasn’t until the’ 90s that technology caught up enough that we saw a much more concerted effort on the part of companies to obtain animation products. such as home videos in the hands of consumers. Sure, you usually paid $ 20-30 for two episodes (sometimes more if you wanted it dubbed), but it was a new anime nonetheless! In the present day, anime is easily accessible with only a high speed internet connection.

According to latest anime industry report released by the Japanese Animators Association (AJA), the anime recorded ten consecutive years of positive growth with 2020 marking the best year for the anime, 2.51 trillion yen (over 23 billion US dollars), with the help of domestic and foreign fans. In fact, foreign fans now make up almost half of the total cartoon market!

With so much money up for grabs, it’s no wonder Japan views anime as a strong cultural export that it can ship to the rest of the world, and that’s really the billion dollar statement there. -low. If you forgive me for sounding a little cynical, what does anime mean for Japanese culture? Ringing and stumbling money.

During a panel at the Anime Lockdown virtual convention held in 2020, presenter Timeenforceranubis laid out some real facts about the company, and the truth is, most cartoons play the role of an animated infomercial to attract more people in the original source material.

Anime as a cultural export

The idea behind “Cool japanWas to export cultural products that overseas fans perceived as ‘cool’, including (but not limited to); music, TV shows (including cartoons), robotics, and just about anything you can think of that is widely associated with Japan. In 2013, they formed a special Cool Japan Fund Inc to fund companies outside of Japan that positively promoted Japanese products, which included a $ 30 million investment in Sentai Holdings in the United States in 2019. .

Anime as artistic expression

Now don’t get the totally wrong idea that there is no more love for the craft in the industry and everyone is just looking to make a few bucks. Yes, creators want their works to succeed, but that doesn’t mean they stay in a rather low-paid industry in search of that elusive golden salary. There are still many talented people present in the industry today who are speaking thoughtfully by writing or directing original stories and thoughtful adaptations of beloved works that really have things to say and do. here are just a few:

Masaaki yuasa

Known for his rough animation style which tends to be an acquired taste, Yuasa is affiliated with the Science Saru studio who have worked with him to create some of his most famous works over the past decade including The night is short, walk on Girl, Lu on the wall, and Devilman crybaby.

Akiyuki Simbo

Although he’s been largely out of the limelight, the past two decades have been very kind to Simbo on a professional level. After breaking up with the series Bakemonogatari (and all of his subsequent follow-ups), Simbo regained massive success immediately afterward over the next decade by realizing the Megahit Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

Makoto shinkai

While The voices of a distant star and 5 cm per second May have initially drawn attention to this creator, it wasn’t until the past decade that Shinkai really hit its stride with three blockbuster movies in a row: Garden of words, your name, and Alter with you. It should be noted that the film your name is now the third highest grossing animated film of all time.

Mamoru hosoda

Like Shinkai, Hosoda is best known for his films and although he had some early success, it was only in the last decade that he became an international success story by progressing with Wolf Children. , Boy and the Beast and Mirai. He’s not even close to finishing his new movie, Belle, which will be released at some point in 2021. Hosoda has already said that this movie is the one he always wanted to make.

Conclusion

To be frank, the anime can be seen as a shadow of itself. While in the 1980s and 1990s it could be considered wild and edgy, anime has become a mainstream product and revenue stream for Japan and is one of their biggest industries. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

The anime may have been marketed beyond recognition, but that doesn’t mean the product is automatically bad. Even though the anime is meant to act as a gateway to the source material, there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying and consuming new series as they release each season. Anime can be a product and we could just be consumers, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still something that can move us and make us feel things that we had long forgotten about ourselves.

Anime is a powerful medium that I will never get tired of and hopefully I can enjoy it until I get gray.

Related: 14 best sites to watch anime legally, free, or ad-free in the US in 2021

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